I have created this blog to hopefully inspire average, everyday Americans to do their part in supporting our troops by being “An American Worth Dying For.” If you are new to the site, please read oldest to newest.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

With the US Army's Faces of Strength 2010 video coming out, I am reminded that I am not an Army of One and I wonder if everyone else knows it. Being front and center with the horse and hearse at a funeral can sometimes lend the impression that I do it all. The truth is, and I always try to tell folks, there are so many who have sweat and bled to keep this company going. I can't name each and every person today, and I hope that those unnamed know that I know what they have done and will forever be grateful. So in no special order I want to give some much deserved credit to some really great people.

From the time we were small, our late mother, Maryanne Clancy, instilled in us a strong sense of civic duty. She always took care of others before herself. That set the foundation for this venture. And she was always there, whether in spirit or in person, at that first funeral and everyone thereafter. I never came home from a funeral that she didn't want to hear all about it. And she so meticulously kept care of newspaper clippings, mass cards and other memorabilia.

And my Dad, the late Wellington Joseph Clancy, who gave us a name, the inspiration and so much more. There is more to a name than most folks will ever realize.

And while I try and try to tell people this whole operation was the dream and baby of my brother, Barney Clancy, they still give me the credit for starting the business. I could never on my own, have thought to do this or put it all together. He did it all and I just fell in to the glory.

Albert, Jenn and Nate, made so many sacrifices to see this through. I missed a lot of school programs, birthday parties, ball games and family time because I was off doing funerals. And the kids did without so much because the money had to go to the "business." Jenn and Nate, were 7 and 4, respectively when we started the company and they grew up helping any way they could. Jenn was the little wife and mother at home and as she got older she took over handling the phone store and the finances so I could devote myself to this. I remember Nate at 5 & 6 years old, watching out the window for our headlights, so he could run out to shine a flashlight to guide me and open the gate to Mike's corral. He endured my anger and frustration as I struggled to soak and wrap Mike's hooves when he had his many abscesses. As soon as he was big enough, he went to every funeral he could. In his high school ag class, he built us a new trailer to pull to funerals.

Without Pat and Susie Gomez, I would have fallen on my face when I took over the business from Barney. I had no pickup to pull the trailer and had to hire people to haul us around, something I could little afford. One day Pat called me and asked for a ride to Pueblo to look at a pickup. With nothing better to do, I took him and watched him buy a 1984 Chevrolet dually for $5500. When we got back to Manzanola, he handed me the title and the keys and said, "Take this home to Albert, if he likes it, you keep it and pay me when you can." Needless to say it took awhile to pay him back, but he never said a word. And he and Susie never failed to stop by and show their support when we were giving carriage rides in town to make any dollar we could. To this day, they have been there for us through every triumph and every trial.

My siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends have all been there throughout, doing whatever I needed, usually without me even having to ask. Rain or shine, heat or cold, ugly or glamorous, they did the job.

I'd be remiss, if I didn't mention the horses; Mike, Dan, Lady and Duke. I had a choice to do this, and every day I make the choice to keep on doing it. They weren't given a choice, but without fail, in sickness or health, 1 mile or 9, 110 degrees or a blizzard, they pulled that coach with dignity and grace.

There was Will, Jodie and John at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs who believed in us from the first and did all they could to promote us. I think Mike liked John much more than he ever liked me.

When we started doing the soldiers' funerals, they took a very heavy emotional toll on me, with no one to share the physical, emotional and logistical burden. But very soon the wonderful folks in the Colorado PGR stepped in to help in any way they could. Jim & Wanda, Greg, the Brads, Ronnie,the Steves and all the others took me under their loving wings and helped to absorb the work and the grief. I gained a wonderful new family and a large stable crew in those folks.

We will forever be grateful to our military whose endless bravery and selfless sacrifice ensure our freedom. And the police and other escorts who led us safely through over 700 processions, in some of the most horrific traffic you could imagine.

Last but probably most important, were the the families who entrusted us with their precious cargo. The significance of being allowed to be a part of such an important day in their lives was an honor we will cherish til the end.

So please, when you see the horse and hearse going down the road, don't forget to notice the invisible army walking beside us, for they are the Faces of Strength of Wellington Carriage Company.

I am so blessed to be surrounded by so many "Americans Worth Dying For."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pay Your Respects for the Right Reason

There is a small group of people in this country who I pay no mind to and I won't even mention their name or affiliation because they don't deserve the airtime. Many of you are aware of what they sometimes do at the funerals of our Fallen Heroes. I will refer to them the same way the Patriot Guard Riders do, calling them Uninvited Guests or UGs. This week the UGs must have had a good laugh at the innocent people who were spreading their hateful propaganda for them.

As I prepared for the service of HT2 Justin McNeley, USN, KIA Afghanistan, I was bombarded with emails of people warning that the UGs had posted on their website and sent flyers out saying they were going to be at this service preaching their hate. So what did everybody do? They kept clicking on their website and forwarding this email with the attached flyer to all their friends urging them to please be at the service to counter the UGs' protest.

What's wrong with that, you ask? Number one, all the UGs had to do was print up an ugly little flyer and throw it into cyberspace and within literally hours, it was all over the country with little or no effort on their part. Surely they were laughing at all the seemingly do-gooders who inadvertantly spread their message of hate and bigotry. UGs are like terrorists, they feed on people's fear and anger. They were well fed this week, let me tell you. So what if they post on their website, that they are going to protest a funeral? The Patriot Guard Riders, if invited by the family, will always protect and shield the family from these domestic terrorists. Of the 40 or so Fallen Heroes' funerals we have attended, the UGs posted they would be present at nearly all of them and only showed once. They don't have to show, we spread the word for them.

The other thing that really bothers me is folks were telling people to attend the funeral because the UGs were going to be there. That is NOT the reason to attend the funeral of a Fallen Hero. We should be attending these services to show our RESPECT and SUPPORT for the Fallen and their families for their sacrifices on our behalf.

So please, next time this comes up, don't spread their hatred. Don't mention their name. Don't go to their website. Don't get angry. Don't talk about them. Don't give them one iota of your time or thought. Instead send an email to all your friends and tell them that an American Hero gave his or her life for their freedom and they can choose to attend the service to pay their respects.

"Be an American Worth Dying For" and please, "Don't Feed the UGs."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Debt of a Nation

The National Debt became immeasurable to me today. I'm not talking about the financial debt. I am talking about the moral debt of each and every American in this country, from 1 day old to 110 years old.

Today the Johnson family lost not one but two sons in less than 24 hours to IEDs. This is on top of a 3rd son lost in Iraq in 2007. I am told there are more family members serving as well. I have dealt with many families who have lost a child to these wars, even a family that lost two sons. But I never dreamed I would hear of a family losing two sons in one day and three total.

I cannot fathom the faith and fortitude it will take for this family to endure the pain of this. But from the little I know of their patiotism and duty to country, they will endure and they will honor their fallen and continue to be the consumate example of what it means to be a Patriot.

Now I must look within myself and tear apart my definition of patriotism. I used to tell folks it didn't cost a dime to be patriotic. How can I look at this family and make a comment like that? What I now realize is that it doesn't cost a dime to be a good citizen. We can all do good deeds for our neighbors and even strangers, but that is not patiotism. That is just our moral and civic duty.

Patriotism is not displaying the flag in front of your house. Patriotism is not putting a yellow ribbon on your car saying you "Support our Troops." Patriotism is not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the National Anthem at a football game. That is just our moral and civic duty.

Patriotism is not donating a horse-drawn hearse for military funerals. It is just my moral and civic duty.

Patiotism is shedding your blood for your country. Patiotism is losing your life for your country. Patriotism is giving up a child for your country. Patriotism is holding your chin up as you watch your loved one leave for a war you are not sure he or she will return from. Patriotism is raising a family of warriors. Patriotism is fighting in the trenches of war and watching your brothers and sisters fall and doing all you can to save them, with no regard for your own safety or pain. Patriotism is something most Americans will never truly understand. The Johnson family must truly understand patriotism and its price.

As for the rest of us, we can only humble ourselves and strive to be "An American Worth Dying For."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Somebody's Mother"

The woman was old, and ragged, and gray,
And bent with the chill of a winter's day;
The streets were white with a recent snow,
And the woman's feet with age were slow.

At the crowded crossing she waited long,
Jostled aside by the careless throng
Of human beings who passed her by,
Unheeding the glance of her anxious eye.

Down the street with laughter and shout,
Glad in the freedom of "school let out,"
Come happy boys, like a flock of sheep,
Hailing the snow piled white and deep;
Past the woman, so old and gray,
Hastened the children on their way.

None offered a helping hand to her,
So weak and timid, afraid to stir,
Lest the carriage wheels or the horses' feet
Should trample her down in the slippery street.

At last came out of the merry troop
The gayest boy of all the group;
He paused beside her, and whispered low,
"I'll help you across, if you wish to go."

Her aged hand on his strong young arm
She placed, and so without hurt or harm,
He guided her trembling feet along,
Proud that his own were young and strong;
Then back again to his friends he went,
His young heart happy and well content.

"She's somebody's mother, boys, you know,
For all she's aged, and poor, and slow;
And some one, some time, may lend a hand
To help my mother-you understand?-
If ever she's poor, and old, and gray,
And her own dear boy is far away."

"Somebody's mother" bowed low her head,
In her home that night, and the prayer she said
Was: God, be kind to that noble boy,
Who is somebody's son, and pride and joy."

Faint was the voice, and worn and weak,
But the Father hears when His children speak;
Angels caught the faltering word,
And "Somebody's Mother's" prayer was heard.

Mary Dow Brine (1816-1913)

This is one of my most favorite poems that my mother shared with me when I was young. I've thought of it often throughout the years and found it in an old "Reader" when I went to Fort Lewis to this spring to visit my nephew who was home on leave. It's weighed heavy on my heart lately as I think of so many mothers with so many sons and daughters off at war.

I hope as we all make our way through our busy daily lives we stop to help those in need and remember they are somebody's mother/father/son/daughter. There is a pretty good chance that their "own dear boy is far away," fighting for your freedom.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

My daughter Jennifer runs my Verizon shop for me. She does a great job of it and only calls when she really needs me. Now and then she might have a customer or employee issue, or maybe there isn't enough money to pay a bill or buy the inventory she needs.

She called me last Friday as I was setting up for SGT Wichmann's service.

"Mom, I don't think I can tell you this without crying."

Uh oh, I sensed this was bad.

"One of our customers came in today."

Whooh, I can handle this, it's just a customer issue.

"She's a really nice lady and a good customer."

So, what's the problem, I'm thinking?

"Her 16 year old daughter Shelby is dying of cancer."

My heart sinks. I can't fix this customer's problem.

"She asked about the hearse, and if you still do funerals. Shelby has talked about you."

"Of course, I told her you would do her funeral."

"She still can't bring herself work on the arrangements, but she wants you there."

"Of course, I told her there would be no charge."

"Shelby wants to be cremated. She doesn't want to be buried in the dirt."

"Of course, I told her you can still do it, even if she is cremated."

"I invited them to the barbeque you are having for Duke and Lady in June."

"She says Shelby is so sick now, she doesn't get out much."

Well then, we will take Duke to Shelby. Let's don't put this off. Duke will be going to church Sunday, call her and ask her if Duke can come by and see Shelby on Mother's Day after church.

"She's says Shelby's grandma goes to the same church. She doesn't get to see her grandma much now that she is so sick. If she is feeling good enough, she will come to church and see both her grandma and Duke. If not, you can take Duke over after church."

Sunday, May 9th, Mother's Day

I was just loading Duke in the trailer when I got the call.

"Shelby had a bad night. She's not up to meeting Duke today."

The coward in me breathed a sigh of relief. I did not know how I was going to face this young lady without falling apart. The mother's heart within me ached, though. How I wanted to be able to give her mother the joy of seeing her baby smile on Mother's Day. How I wanted Duke to distract Shelby and her mother from their pain, if only for a few minutes.

"She will call you when Shelby has a good day and you can take Duke over then."

I pray she has a good day so she can meet Duke.

"She still wants you to do her funeral even if she doesn't get to meet Duke."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dear Coston:

Dear Coston:

It was an honor to meet you today, little man. You won't remember this day but it is a day I will never forget. Your daddy's name, Sgt. Grant A. Wichmann will forever be burned into my heart.

I can only imagine the joy your daddy must have felt when he held you for the first time when you were three months old. I can't imagine the pain he must have felt two weeks later when he had to leave you again for the battlefield. I know his chest must have been bursting with pride as he looked down on you today, sitting on your mommy's lap atop my hearse. You were so composed as you talked to the big black horse carrying your daddy home.

I'm sure there will be times when your mommy looks in to your pretty blue eyes, your daddy's eyes, that she will shed a tear.

And I'm sure there will be times as you get older, that you will look at your daddy's picture on the wall and ask why you had to give your daddy up for my freedom. I will ask the same question, and have no answer. For surely I am not worthy of it.

But I hope you will find comfort in knowing your daddy was a brave and honorable soldier who gave his life so that you and your mommy would have a better life.

I am so sorry that you only had two weeks with your daddy. The ten minutes I shared with you and your mommy and daddy together on my coach will be with me for a lifetime.

In was an honor to meet you today, little man.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Goodbye and Hello-Lady and Duke

I said goodbye to my beloved Lady on November 13, 2009.

Goodbyes are never easy, especially when you know they aren't coming back. Especially when they are part of your family. Especially when you've gone through battle with them.

I must confess that as I lay on the ground next to my dead warrior, I wanted to quit. Together, Lady and I had walked through the battleground of death so many times. But we had each other's back so I had no fear. How could I face it without my Lady?

I asked myself, "What is God trying to tell me?" The month before my truck had died, now Lady. "That's 2/3 of my business, God." "Take me out of the picture and we've got nothing."

I cried all night. I buried Lady the next morning. I cried all day. I didn't want to go on. I had to tell the family of a fallen warrior that we couldn't carry their hero home. My heart was broke. Maybe it was time to hang it up. I'd done my tour. There would be no shame in calling it quits.

Then in the middle of my pity party another thought came to mind. What about the warriors at battle in faraway lands? They watch their brothers fall and they can't stop the battle to grieve. Why should I be afforded that luxury?

So with the support of my family, friends and the Patriot Guard Riders, I picked myself up. There had to be a reason Lady left. Maybe an accident awaited me had I gone to that soldier's funeral. Maybe Lady knew the only thing that would keep me from a funeral was losing her. Who knows, but I did realize I needed to come back and be better and stronger than before.

My friends and community rallied behind me. A dinner was held in Lady's honor. I found a great deal on a new (to me) truck. Funds were raised to purchase a new horse. Word was received of a beautiful black Percheron in Indiana. A deal was struck and he would arrive in Denver on April 15th.

It's a bit scary buying a horse sight unseen. You see, you don't pick a horse, the horse picks you. Needless to say I was a bit nervous when I first met "Duke". But it was love at first sight, at least on my part. Three weeks later, I think Duke and I have bonded. I hope so, as tomorrow he will be called upon to carry SGT Grant Wichmann home.

So tonite, as I say goodbye to Lady again. I am comforted knowing she is grazing in the pastures of heaven with our Mike. And I know someday my hands will be on the lines and we will be a team again.

And in the morning I will say, "Hello Duke, step up, we have to take a young sergeant home."